Monday, August 9, 2010 - 11:58

The Eden Project in Cornwall has installed a helium balloon to allow gardeners to fly around the towering canopy of the Rainforest Biome.


They can now reach the tops of giant trees in the Biome, the biggest greenhouse in the world. They can prune fast-growing trees such as balsa and kapok, which have reached the 50m ceiling of the Biome.


Strapped into the sling of the balloon and tethered by a colleague, an Eden horticulturist can now reach pretty much any area of the canopy.


In the past, the gardeners have kept the forest’s trees under control by using a cherry-picker or by abseiling from the roof of the Biome but some upper branches have grown out of their reach.


Later in the year, Eden plans to give visitors the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly through the treetops in the Rainforest Balloon.


Don Murray, Eden’s chair of horticulture and curator of the Rainforest Biome, said: "The canopy balloon is tremendous fun but there's a serious side to it too. Not only does it help us get to those hard-to-reach areas to cut the trees back but it has also provided a fantastic opportunity to explore the higher reaches of our rainforest.


“For those who haven't had the chance to go to the real tropics, working in the balloon in the biggest rainforest in captivity is a unique and exciting experience. Many of them have been fascinated by the science of the canopy but, before the balloon arrived at Eden, hadn't had the chance to see it first-hand."


The Rainforest Lookout, a new platform enabling visitors to view the Biome’s canopy from above, will also be opening later this month.


The Eden Project is open every day from 10am to 6pm with last entry is at 4.30pm. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays until 3 September the project will be open until 8pm, with reduced entry for those arriving after 3.30pm.